BACKGROUND: Recently there is increasing recognition of cognitive dysfunction as a core feature of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). The goal of the current meta-analysis was to review and examine in detail the specific features of cognitive dysfunction in Melancholic (MEL) versus Non-Melancholic (NMEL) MDD. METHODS: An electronic literature search was performed to find studies comparing cognitive performance in MEL versus NMEL. A meta-analysis of broad cognitive domains (processing speed, reasoning/problem solving, verbal learning, visual learning, attention/working memory) was conducted on all included studies (n=9). Sensitivity and meta-regression analyses were also conducted to detect possible effects of moderator variables (age, gender, education, symptom severity and presence of treatments). RESULTS: MEL patients were older and more severly depressed than NMEL subjects. The MEL group was characterized by a worse cognitive performance in attention/working memory (ES=-0.31), visual learning (ES=-0.35) and reasoning/problem solving (ES=-0.46). No difference was detected in drug-free patients by sensitivity analyses. No effect was found for any of our moderators on the cognitive performance in MEL vs NMEL. CONCLUSION: Our findings seem to support a moderate but specific effect of melancholic features in affecting the cognitive performance of MDD, in particular as regards visual learning and executive functions.
- Depressive disorder
- Major depression